When I was in drug rehabilitation, the given definition of addiction was, “a relationship with a mood altering experience that has life damaging consequences.” Note that this definition makes no mention of the actual thing to which the person is addicted. Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, work, or stamp collecting, it’s the consequence of the individual’s relationship with it that transforms that relationship into an addiction.
In short, an addict is a person who allows his pursuit of a thing to ruin the very life he seeks to enhance by pursuing it in the first place. Which brings me to point of this post: the addictive personality. This, I believe, is the true ’disease’ behind the symptom of addiction. You see, I have an addictive personality. When I find something that turns me on, whether it’s drugs, sex, work, computer programming, reading, listening to music, or writing, I fall head over heels into it at the cost of everything else.
It’s like The Neverending Story, where the kid falls into the book whenever he opens it. In fact, that’s the precise image I invoked to describe my addiction to reading. I would literally become so involved in whatever I was reading that I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t even go to work. I remember once, when I had finally got my hands on the last book in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, I used speed to allow me to stay awake while I read all six books in four days. Fortunately, if I can even use that word, I did this during an extended work break. But you can bet that my wife wasn’t too pleased.
Using another analogy, I refer you to the episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith played a guy who wished for nothing more than the unfettered freedom to pursue his love of reading. He was so happy when a great holocaust left him all alone to do just that – until he broke his glasses! As crazy as it sounds, that was both my dream and my nightmare during those times. I still get chills of anxiety when I think of it.
This particular addiction got so bad that my emotions began to run wild, eventually leading to the choked-down rage and impossible-to-hide crying episodes that have plagued me ever since. To this day, I get so emotional when I read a good book or listen to my favorite songs that it completely ruins the experience. If it weren’t for the anti-depressants I take, I couldn’t even muster the courage to try.
And it’s the same for all the other things that trigger my ’disease.’ In addition to space travel and super-heroes, I was absolutely obsessed with sex as a kid. On the job, I worked more overtime than anyone. When I learned to program, I thought of nothing else. When I could no longer work, I stayed home to binge on marijuana, programming, reading, music, pornography, writing (mostly porn), and all the crack cocaine I could get my hands on to ’help’ me do all those things non-stop. I can’t say why it’s important to me to point this out, but I simply wanted speed during this period and crack was what I was able to find.
Ironically, I was actually looking for a way to kill myself when I stumbled upon crack. And as sick as it might sound, it actually gave me something to live for, at least for a while, since it had a kind of Popeye’s Spinach effect on me. When I finally lost my family and my friends, I lapsed into a hermit-like state that I’m just now beginning to come out of. My misery was so complete at one point that I even tried drinking to numb my pain and shut down my head, and when that didn’t work I turned back to suicide. Fortunately both alcohol and ’downers’ make me puke, so I didn’t succeed at either. Trust me, I haven’t always thought that was such a fortunate thing.
Now as I’ve said before, in addition to being a source of pleasure for me, writing serves as a kind of therapy. But the pen, or rather the keyboard, can be a double-edged sword for me. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ll have noticed that I have written quite a lot. In fact, I’ve done little else since I started this blog in the middle of November ’08. Such is the dilemma that I now face. I love what I’m doing so much, and finally feel that I’m really serving a worthwhile cause, that I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve found my ’true calling.’ But my experience forces me to wonder if this is just another symptom of my ’disease.’
You know how it’s said that you can’t see the forest for the trees? It’s like that when I try to weigh the consequences of this continuous writing. I don’t work, other than my writing, and I have no particular place to be. When I do have an appointment, I keep it. I take my med’s and prepare all my own meals. And the lack of a social life is ’normal’ for me. So aside from missing a lot of sleep, drinking too much coffee, and smoking too many cigarettes, it’s hard to find a truly negative consequence. But if I were a ’normal’ person with a job and family to tend to, this behavior would be excessive to say the least.
So for once I am truly at a loss. It’s not like there’s anyone I trust to advise me in this area. The psychiatrists and psychologists can’t seem to see past my drug abuse, ignoring the fact that my ’disease’ predates my drug abuse by many years. And the rehab community can only suggest that I turn my will over to ’a higher power’ or to ’the group’ – neither of which are acceptable to me. So I guess that I’ll just have to keep on doing what feels right. And that is to “Keep On Truckin’.”
I welcome your comments. But still, as always,
I want ice water.